Tobacco's status in the trade transaction is disputed

Tobacco manufacturers and lawmakers from the state of Kentucky and other countries squaring off against the anti-smoking groups over whether to turn culture into a trade agreement that the U.S. is in talks with eight countries in the Pacific.
Public health groups argue that excluding tobacco from trade agreements such, helps worldwide campaign to reduce smoking. But lawmakers and farmers claim that the ban on tobacco can lead to economic losses to Kentucky and other states, and sets a bad precedent.
The Obama administration has not said that he intends to do. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk was noncommittal when pressed on this issue, Congressman Geoff Davis of Kentucky, R-4th District, at a recent House Ways and Means Committee hearing.
“Let me be clear: we do not have (the decision) to exclude any proposal or any tobacco product,” Kirk said. “I know that there is great interest on the part of the Kentucky delegation.”
Davis and the rest of the state congressional delegation urged the administration in October to avoid the exclusion of any specific products of commercial transactions.
“Kentucky is one of the largest tobacco-producing states in the production of tobacco leaves to support thousands of jobs in the Commonwealth,” the delegation wrote to Kirk. Other delegations of Congress from tobacco states, including North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, wrote similar letters.
More than 80 percent of Kentucky tobacco is exported, so that the exceptions to the trade agreement “threatens the business of our vendors, and may be harmful to the communities where they live and work in Kentucky,” the letter said.
Economic effect
Roger Quarles, president of Lexington-based Burley Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said in an interview that tobacco generates $ 350 million to $ 400 million a year to the economy of Kentucky.
“If you have any trade agreements that exist in the world that benefit agricultural production, we need to be included,” Quarles said. “We feel like the American manufacturers do not have to be at a disadvantage compared to other countries.”
In Frankfort, Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate approved a resolution supporting the inclusion of tobacco products in trade agreements.
The resolution stated that Washington should “hold fast to the long-term policies that trade agreements should be comprehensive in order to verify the absence of agricultural products or commodities, including tobacco and tobacco products can be removed for the sake of public policy.”
“All elected officials are aware of the importance of this issue,” said Sen. state of Paul Hornback, co-author of the tobacco permit.
Shelbyville Republican raised tobacco on his family farm for decades. He currently devotes 100 acres to the leaf, producing about 250,000 pounds per year.
Hornback said that he and other tobacco manufacturers consider themselves “in a big competition with the rest of the world for our products.”
Deal this year?
The 11th rounds of talks on trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was held recently in Melbourne, Australia. The final agreement could come by year’s end.
Trade deal – involving the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – will eliminate tariffs on 11 000 a range of products.
But tobacco is not to be one of them, said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“Free trade agreements aimed at promoting products,” he said in an interview. “And this is the goal of almost every country to reduce tobacco use and reducing the number of people who die from tobacco use. These two do not go hand in hand.”
The United States has already committed to an international treaty to reduce tobacco consumption around the world, health groups and tobacco control advocates point out.
In 2004 during the reign of President George W. Bush, the United States signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty aimed at curbing smoking and dramatically devastating diseases associated with it. The agreement was never sent to the Senate for ratification.
The agreement was signed by 168 countries including all countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations.
Smoking effects
Smoking-related diseases kill about 440,000 Americans a year. Worldwide, tobacco kills 5 million people each year – one in 10 adult deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
Myers said that the concern about excluding tobacco trade agreement negotiations masks a big problem.
“Tobacco manufacturers abusing the existing free trade agreements to challenge the law, good public health measures in countries of the world,” he said.
In any case, Myers said, tobacco farmers would not be hurt by new trade agreements, because there is nothing in it would not prevent the export of American tobacco. That ultimately lead to lower exports of tobacco gradual reduction of smoking, he said.
Quarles acknowledged that if the tobacco has been excluded from the trade treaty, “we’re not sure what will happen now or in the future.”
But “we should have the same opportunities as producers of soybeans, or any other culture you want to get in the United States,” he said.
The contract issue
The Obama administration has been wrestling for months with the tobacco problem in the trade agreement.
“As you know, there is a problem … NGO (nongovernmental organization), as well as in health, we do not table anything that would limit this control, the ability of Congress to regulate in the field of public health (region),” Kirk told the committee of Congress.
“We’re trying to find the right balance,” he said, “with our stated goal of having a high standard, comprehensive agreement that all of this on the table and how little cut outs possible, and at the same time, maintaining that the main core of the standard trade agreements that would not be discrimination, which we do not apply to product manufacturers in other countries, other than here.”
Before the beginning of the winter session of the National Governors Association late last month, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear was one of four governors, joining New Zealand Ambassador Michael Moore as host on “The governors and ambassadors of the World Trade Acceptance” in Washington.
Kirk was the speeches at the meeting due to a possible “to establish and strengthen personal relationships critical” among government officials, industry and diplomatic representatives of countries that are major U.S. trading partners.
Sponsors of the event included Philip Morris International, which sells tobacco products in about 180 countries and in 2011 was about 16 per cent share of the cigarette market outside the U.S., according to the company’s website.
Myers said Philip Morris was trying to influence the outcome of trade negotiations on the agreement. In his statement he said that the tobacco industry “is working aggressively to this agreement will help them open up new markets for their deadly products.”
Beshear supports crop
In trading method, Beshear said Kirk on the tobacco issue.
“The governor urged the U.S. to include the export of tobacco in Kentucky Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,” said Kerri Richardson, a representative of Beshir. “Tobacco remains an important agricultural product in Kentucky, and we will continue to work with other tobacco-exporting countries to encourage the federal government to provide access to these export markets.”
Philip Morris said in a statement that “corporate sponsorship and participation in events such as this, it is common practice for companies in the United States, including tobacco companies, and we believe that our participation was not inappropriate in any way.”
“We were one of 14 other sponsors of the event, we are proud to be supported in the past,” the company said.
 

One Reply to “Tobacco's status in the trade transaction is disputed”

  1. If the only important consideration is whether or not something creates jobs and makes money for multinational corporations, then we should also legalize slavery, kiddie porn, and anything trafficked by organized crime.
    If on the other hand human rights, public health, and a nation’s right to decide what is best for its people is the most important, then tobacco should be excluded from all trade agreements.
    It all depends on which the law values more: human rights, public health, and a nation’s right to set and protect its own priorities? Or corporate profits for multi-nationals?

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